Now that we’re almost a month out from the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest in Las Vegas, I’m in a very different state of mind when I think back on the event compared to years past.
There are no bad memories.
It’s no secret that previous FFXIV Fan Fest events held in Las Vegas were plagued with a few, significant issues, always revolving around lines and the merchandise booth. In 2014, multiple printers malfunctioned at registration, the merch line had issues with registers accepting cards, and the line ran around the entire ballroom. In 2016, there was virtually no line management for the first couple of hours. This resulted in there being multiple lines merging into the actual merch line, which took some people the entire first day to get through, if they did at all.
Thinking back on the event, I can say that this year was without a doubt, the smoothest run event I have ever been to, and just before Fan Fest this year, I attended my first BlizzCon.
Any long lines that I saw at Fan Fest had staff nearby to manage them. Even more impressive, any long lines that I saw were incredibly quick to shrink down. After registration, people started to make their own line to get into the merchandise pre-order pick up area, and while it started a little rough, staff were quick to jump in, condense it, and make it more organized. When we moved into the merch area, I could see the long line behind me, giving me memories of the registration line from the event in 2014. The incredible order-pick up area must of had at least twenty stations to handle orders. Staff would collect orders, check that everything was there and send you on your way after only a few minutes. After I picked up my order and walked back out of the event space, that long line that followed me in was nonexistent.
This year, an entire second room was dedicated to games, which played host to events such as the Yojimbo special battle, the Eureka survival challenge and more. Lines here also didn’t take more than 20-30 minutes, and seemed to move fairly quickly. One event in particular was quite unique- challenging a friend to the PvP Dueling Circle using a fighting joystick. I was surprised at how well this worked! Each job had their hotbars already configured, and it played surprisingly well. They also had a fashion report based game that sprinkled in a little bit of community knowledge into the mix (I’m looking at you Zhexos).
To ensure that those participating in events in the second room wouldn’t miss any stage events (which was a worry that I had after seeing a map of the venue), they had a large screen that played the live stream.
This year, Fan Fest was also better themed, and in fact, had a couple of different themed areas. In years prior, Fan Fest has been treated as the Gold Saucer, though the end result had usually been a fairly theme-less ballroom with a few Gold Saucer-like games thrown in. This year however, there was a corner in the main ballroom that had a whole Gold Saucer backdrop, the opposite corner was a lovely Kugane themed seating area. Between the two was a large glowing Aetheryte, which regularly saw attendees having their pictures taken with while “attuning” to it.
Apart from the operations of the event itself, North America finally got a proper job reveal with the Blue Mage! No more Yoshida-san walking out with a Batman t-shirt and proclaiming his love for Christopher Nolan movies. Though we did get a tease via a Bugs Bunny t-shirt for what’s likely to be a new Viera race added into the game with Shadowbringers. We also finally got Brute Justice during The Primals concert on Saturday night, with Soken-san absolutely killing it on trumpet!
Fan Fest 2018 in Las Vegas was an incredible event. It was exceptionally well run, and the line management was the best I’ve ever seen. Truthfully, the only issue and regret I had with the event was that some of the merchandise items that you could include in your pre-orders weren’t available to buy at the event (Forgive me, Alpha plush).
OK, that and maybe the fact that Yoshida said we might never see him in the Byakko Kimono again, even if it was “woohoohoo” levels of expensive.
Square Enix, all of its staff, and the incredible community of players made this the best Fan Fest yet!